Sullivan: Fans way off base in ripping Bills' White

Jerry Sullivan

Three major sports are back in action. NFL training camps are under way. The PGA Championship is being played in San Francisco. So I can’t think of a better time to ... Column as I see 'em:

• Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White was understandably peeved when Twitter trolls ripped him for thinking of opting out of the NFL season due to concerns about the coronavirus and its effect on his family.

White, who was a first team All-Pro choice last season, was called selfish by a couple of critics, prompting the avid social media presence to fire back on Twitter.

“Crazy that me choosing my family’s well being over a game comes with so called fans attacking and questioning me and saying I’m selfish,” White tweeted. “No you guys are selfish for thinking that football is bigger than life. Oh by the way my girl’s grandfather passed from COVID. U understand now?”

White has two children at home, including an 11-month-old. He wondered if he would risk the child’s by simply holding him. He said that despite the high hopes for the Bills this season, “I’m always gonna put my kids first.”

It shows intelligence and perspective for an athlete to weigh the negatives of playing during a pandemic. Selfish? The selfish and defensible position, one that most pro athletes have assumed during COVID-19, is to take the risk because the financial stakes are so high.

Money had to be a factor in White’s eventual decision to play. That doesn’t make him a bad guy. He had a lot to lose by sitting out the season, which also would have impacted his family. Athletes who sign with the highest bidder as free agents often say it’s what’s best for their family.

White is scheduled to make $10.2 million in 2021 in the fifth year of his rookie deal. If he had opted out, his raise would have been pushed back a year and his base salary set at $1.7 million. It also would have reduced his cap hit by $7.2 million in ’21, helping the Bills in a year when the cap is expected to go down.

Look, the NFL is a business. White was the first Bills defensive back to make first-team All-Pro since Henry Jones in 1992. He’s going to get a huge contract extension at some point.

White says he’s in no hurry, but it can’t hurt his case to remind the Bills that life would be very difficult without him.

• Rich Luchette, the man who originated the petition to name the Bills’ stadium after Marv Levy, is no ordinary Buffalo fan. He works in high places, and with the enemy.

Luchette, an East Aurora native, is the communications director for David Cicilline, one of Rhode Island’s two members in the U.S. House of Representatives. Cicilline, a Providence native, is a diehard Patriots fan.

Cicilline has been known to tweak his assistant on Twitter during Bills-Pats game over the last decade. But Luchette, 33, is just old enough to remember the glory years and thinks it would be a perfect gesture to name the stadium after Levy, who turned 95 last week.

“I’ve always admired him, and not just for what he achieved on the field,” Luchette said. “It’s a cliche, but he was a good role model in the values he instilled in those teams. It’s been said a million times, but his teams had such resilience.

“But also, I also think growing up as a kid who was a diehard Bills fan but had other interests, like politics and history, his respect for learning and knowledge always spoke to me.”

• It’s early, but Gerrit Cole has been precisely what the Yankees expected when they made him the highest-paid pitcher in baseball history: Unbeatable.

In three starts, Cole is 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA and has allowed only 10 hits in 17.2 innings. Cole is now 19-0 in the regular season since Houston's loss to the White Sox on May 22 of last year.

Cole’s teams are 23-2 in his last 25 starts in the regular season. Of course, he’s averaging only 8.2 strikeouts per nine after striking out a staggering 13.8 per nine a year ago. Imagine how tough he’ll be when he actually hits his stride.

• Ten days before the start of the NBA playoffs, things are looking fragile for the Lakers, who lost to the Rockets, 113-97, on Thursday for their third loss in four games in the bubble.

LeBron James missed the game with a sore right groin, an ominous sign. James strained his groin in December of 2018 and the injury lingered until the Lakers shut him down in March during his first year in Los Angeles.

Perhaps more ominous, LeBron suggested the team had internal issues when asked about the Laker’s offensive struggles:

“It’s just some things you can’t control that’s here,” James said, “that I really don’t want to talk about, that’s off the floor."

• Brooks Koepka is 96th in FedEx rankings and has missed four cuts in nine events going back to early March. But was it any surprise when he shot 4-under-par to sit one shot back of the lead after the first round of the PGA Championship?

Koepka, the two-time defending PGA champ, rises up in majors. Going back to his victory in the 2017 U.S. Open, he has four victories, two seconds, a fourth and a sixth place in 10 appearances in major tournaments.

That’s Tiger Woods/Jack Nicklaus level in the biggest events. Chances are, Koepka will win another major very soon.

• The Leafs were on the brink of losing a first-round playoff series — albeit a qualifying series — for the fourth year in a row after blowing a 3-0 lead in a 4-3 loss to Columbus on Thursday. Well, if they lose they can always fire Mike Babcock again. … It’s looking good for the Jays’ “home opener” against Miami on Tuesday in Buffalo. Despite their COVID-19 issues, the Marlins are actually playing well. As of Friday, Miami had won four straight and were 6-1, atop the NL East. … Friday was the 13th anniversary of Barry Bonds hitting his 755th home run to pass Hank Aaron. He hit it off Mike Bacsik, who was the Bisons top hurler in 2001 and is now a sports talk radio host in Dallas. … The men's basketball gold medal game would have been Friday in Tokyo if the 2020 Olympics hadn't been postponed. Just thought I'd mention it.

Jerry Sullivan is a sports columnist with over 30 years experience in Western New York. Follow him on Twitter @ByJerrySullivan or respond via email at scoreboard@gnnewspaper.com.

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